Barbra Joan Streisand has one of the most famous faces of the 20th century, a face that has been the subject of parody and ridicule, a face that has won Oscars and ruled box offices, a face — she jokes in her forthcoming memoir, My Name Is Barbra — that "got more press" than she did.
In an audio excerpt from the book (below), Streisand lists the names she was called as her star began to rise — "an amiable anteater, a sour persimmon, a furious hamster, a myopic gazelle, and a seasick ferret" — which she takes in good stride, while also admitting that even after all these years she's "still kinda hurt by the insults."
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images Barbra Streisand
Streisand's big break came, famously, in her Broadway debut at 19 in I Can Get It for You Wholesale in 1962, and the rest of the decade saw her climb to the heights of the entertainment industry. Yet, it seemed, people couldn't quite get over the way she looked.
Streisand notes that when she began appearing in Funny Girl, the press went from describing her as some sort of anxious forest creature and more like a "Babylonian queen" with a "pharaonic profile."
"I must say, I loved those descriptions," the EGOT quips. Of being described as having "scarab eyes," Streisand says she assumed it was a compliment but admits "one of those eyes does look, well, a little cross-eyed at times." As much as she's still hurt by the insults, Streisand also "can't quite believe the praise."
Over the years, the singer and actress has learned to avoid any press about her as "half the time I don't recognize the person that they portray." She gives an example of her favorite activity, going to the dentist, where she picked up a magazine to find a story about her friend Neil Diamond's brother and the $15,000 bathtub he invented that the magazine claimed Streisand had bought.
"I didn't even know my friend Neil had a brother and now I'm being used to sell his bathtub?" Streisand notes.
As for her reputation for being difficult, Streisand chalks that up to bad press, sharing an anecdote about having dinner with her friend Andrzej Bartkowiak, a cinematographer whom she had had worked with on The Mirror Has Two Faces and Nuts.
Bartkowiak had been to see a friend earlier and had told this friend that he was going to have dinner with Streisand. The man said that she was a "bitch," and insisted on this description of her even after Bartkowiak refuted it. This upset Streisand "deeply," leading her to ask, "Why couldn't he have accepted the truth?"
"For 40 years, publishers have been asking me to write my autobiography," she continues, "but I kept turning them down because I prefer to live in the present rather than dwell on the past. And the fact is, I'm scared that after six decades of people making up stories about me...I'm going to tell the truth, and nobody is going to believe it."
Read, or hear, the unbelievable truth for yourself when My Name Is Barbra comes out Nov. 7.